Ron Friedman’s article at the Harvard Business Review, “Working Too Hard Makes Leading More Difficult,” contains a warning for presidents, chairs, and other leaders: Many of the behaviors that lead to positions of leadership become hindrances once you are a leader.
The article makes reference to Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Friedman notes that habits that work in the initial stages of a career -- “habits like winning too much (the need to win every workplace disagreement, even when it doesn’t matter), adding too much value (adding your two cents to every discussion), and goal obsession (becoming so wrapped up in achieving short-term goals that you forget the larger mission -- become detrimental in the later stages.
Friedman focuses on another habit that leaders need to avoid: working too hard. “It is surprisingly hard to recognize the damage working excessive hours inflicts both on leaders and their teams.”
He cites studies that demonstrate that working too hard leads to poor communication and impaired judgment, and he emphasizes an even greater danger: when the person at the top works too hard, the entire leadership team and organization often begin to mirror this behavior. Or at least, they sense that it is an unspoken expectation.
"Isn't that a good thing?" you're wondering. "If the whole team is working too hard, we must be getting a lot done, right?"
Not really. A 2010 study showed what happens when employees work too much: “The findings were unambiguous. Not only were employees lacking work-free time off less invested in their job a year later, they were more likely to report emotional exhaustion and physical symptoms, like headaches and stomach tenseness.”
If you think you may be a leader who is working too hard (and thus having a negative impact on your leadership team), you may want to read Friedman’s suggestions for small behavioral changes that can help you refresh your perspective and model more healthy behavior.
Image: Lewis Hine's 1920 Power house mechanic working on steam pump, Works Progress Administration.